Favourite Observations of 2019

6 months 1 week ago #108091 by flt158
Favourite Observations of 2019 was created by flt158
Good evening once again, everyone.

I feel it is now time to announce our favourite observations of 2019.
So here are mine in reverse order.
I did try to keep it to a top ten. But it turned out I soon discovered that I do have 15 favourites. Maybe 2020 I will have a bit less.

15. Tuesday 16th July. Through my Meade 9X63 binoculars I observed the 3 eclipses - my least favourite was a Partial Lunar Eclipse A good 65% of the northern part of the Full Moon was covered by the Earth's shadow. A swimming friend called Joe travelled with me to the Killiney Head to see the event. It certainly was worth seeing. There were a decent crowd of folk about.

14. Monday 13th May. Rimae Parry in its entirety was observed with my William Optics 158 mm apochromatic refractor. I went up to 225X to view the 3 sectioned rille. Its total length is 300 kms and is positioned on the eastern side of Mare Cognitum (the Known Sea). The 1st rille starts at the base of the 48 km crater Parry. The 2nd rille is very long and heads up through the very long shallow crater Fra Mauro . The 3rd rille heads southwards into the 60 km crater Bonpland. What a marvellous and rare sight it truly is!

13. Wednesday 28th August Psi Cassiopeiae is my favourite triple star in Cassiopeia. The primary is orange and is at a different distance from Earth when compared to the C and D stars. B is not visible. It's far too faint. The magnitudes are 4.7, 9.2 and 10. The separations are 20.3" and C and D are 2.9" apart. The PA's are 38 and 253 degrees. At 112X I get the narrowest of a gap between the 2 faint stars which are a true binary. It is so charming at that power. 140X and 167X are very good too.

12. Monday 26th August NGC 457 is observed at 112X. I very much thank Darren for this wondrous open star cluster - even though I had observed it many years ago. It is otherwise called the Owl Cluster. As many of us know there are 2 bright stars for the owl's eyes. One of them is Phi Cassiopeiae. Then there are many faint stars which form the owl's body. Lastly there are a good number of stars which shape the owl's wings on either side as if it is in flight. How truly captivating NGC 457 is! By the way there is no point going higher in magnification as the open cluster is wide enough and easy to see.

11. Saturday 11th May I observe a glorious true binary Alula Australis (Xi Ursae Majoris), The magnitudes are 4.3 and 4.8. The current separation for January 2020 is 2.2". The PA will be 152 degrees then. And it changes every month.
I can split at 112X and 140X. But what of the colours? How stunning they are! Slight orange and strong yellow. And here is another amazing fact: both stars are nearly the same size as our Sun!! And that's from a distance just short of 34 light years. Chase it down when you can! You will not be disappointed.

10. Saturday 11th May (the same night as Xi Ursae Majoris) my apochromatic refractor splits its tightest true binary Stf 1517 in Leo. The magnitudes are 7.5 and 8. The separation was at the time 0.73". The PA was 315 degrees. It is 25 arc minutes (') south of Zosma. I split it at 320X and 374X in good and steady skies. It will be a shade wider in 2020.

9. Monday 19th August. Achird (Eta Cassiopeiae) is my favourite 4th magnitude true binary of all time. The magnitudes are 3.5 and 7.4. The separation is 13.4". The PA is 326 degrees. The colours are, as ever, yellow and almond brown. I can split it at 40X, but I regularly increase up to 167X simply to be blown away by those remarkable hues.

8. 26th March. Tegmine (Zeta Cancri) is still my favourite triple star I have ever observed. Its magnitudes are 5.3, 6.3 and 5.9, The separations are 1.1" and 5.9". The PA's are 8 and 64 degrees. At 40X I can see A and C very plainly. But 167X and 225X the view is utterly brilliant. I have got a tiny black gap between A and B. All 3 stars are yellow - white. The primary having the strongest colour.

7. Monday 21st January. Do you remember this Total Lunar Eclipse at 4.40 am? Our Moon looked extremely strange. Although totality had occurred at that time, only the southern part had the strong orange / red hue. The northern part was very dark grey. Castor and Pollux were "pointing" at the Moon and that was a lovely effect. As I was having trouble with my focuser I used another telescope at 20X and it was a Celestron Ultima 80. Its focal length is 480 mm.

6. Tuesday 24th December. I observe a rich deep orange carbon star called NQ Cassiopeiae for the first time. Its magnitude was 9.5 and it looks tremendous at 167X. Seek it out!

5. Friday 3rd May. I'm up in the Sugarloaf car park and I find the colossal M87 in Virgo for the first time. It is an elliptical supergiant galaxy with a magnitude of 8.6. Its dimensions are 8.3 X 6.6' and it is bigger than our Milky Way. Of course it is the galaxy which has a massive black hole in the middle of it some 55 million light years from us. At 112X it is lovely and round in my scope.

4. Monday night 10th June was an extremely special occasion for me and a 7.5 day old slightly gibbous Moon. At 167X, I observed no less than 7 rilles. Having sought after Rima Hadley (130 km long) for many a year, it finally appeared through my Meade 6.7 mm eyepiece. And there it was positioned very close to the 5 kms high Apennine Mountains which normally cover Rima Hadley 100%. The other 6 rilles were Rima Fresnel (90 km), Rima Oppolzer (110 km), Rima Reaumer (30 km), Rimae Archimedes (150 km), Rimae Ariadaeus (220 km) and Rimae Hyginus (220 km). You see, you can observe some lunar event which is even more spectacular than a Total Lunar Eclipse! Those rilles very much resemble very narrow cracks on the lunar surface. We just need that bit of extra magnification to view them.

3. Friday 1st February. Having observed a total of 25 carbon stars within the boundaries of Andromeda for 2 solid years up to December 2018, it was now time to find the 26th and final carbon in this glorious constellation. But where is it? Case 717 appears to be invisible. I push the magnification up to 280X and there is no sign of an orange star. However it turns out that it is a variable star. But I am so pleased to say I found Case 717 by using averted vision at 320X on a very clear and calm night at magnitude +13.2! And it turns out it is the faintest star I have ever observed. and to think I do have Bortle 8 or 9 light pollution in my back garden.

2. Monday 11th November. Valerie and I have good sunny skies to observe the Mercury Transit. It's my 3rd dating back to 2003. We were wrapped up because of the temperature of just 5 degrees Celsius. We used image projection with an old 28 mm RKE eyepiece and a very large A3 blank pad which was sitting on my telescope chair. The Sun's disc was huge as we observed from 12.39 until precisely 3 pm. The totally black good sized disc of Mercury had an angular diameter of 10" and it was 101 million kms from Earth. There were no sunspots.

And so finally:

1. Tuesday 2nd July Valerie and I were outside a tiny town called Bella Vista which is located in San Juan province in northwest Argentina. We were 1700 metres above sea level. There were more than 500 people in an open field. To our west were the Andes Mountains with a decent amount of snow on them. But we were warm with temperatures of 21˚ C. Our Sun was about to experience a Total Solar Eclipse in perfect seeing conditions. I set up my Meade 9X63 binoculars on a tripod with 2 Mylar filters fitted. We had eclipse glasses too. At 3 pm local time, before the eclipse started, I discovered there were no sunspots whatsoever and I began to wonder what shape the Corona would be. Would I see any red solar prominences with my own eyes or through the binoculars? 1st contact occurred right on time at 16h 25m in the 7 o’clock position. By 17h 10m, 50% of the Sun was covered by the Moon. 20 minutes later we had a crescent Sun in the sky. Whatever breeze we had was gone at 17h 35m. The temperature had considerably declined with totality almost upon us. At 17.37 somebody called out “Shadow Bands!” So I went over to have a look at a large white sheet which had been erected. It was my first time to see these shimmering ripples. 2 minutes later, the 1st Diamond Ring appeared in the 1 o’clock position. It only lasted a second. Many people cheered at that point. Totality occurred at 17h 39m. There were two wide strong streamers in the corona at 1 and 7 o’clock. Four solar prominences were not visible to the unaided eye. There could only be seen in my binoculars. Their positions were 6, 8, 9 and 12 o’clock. Precisely 2 minutes 30.5 seconds later the 2nd Diamond Ring was visible in the 7 o’clock position for 1 second also. Some people think that a 2.5 minute long corona is not long. But I beg to disagree. To continually stare at anything in our lives for 2.5 minutes is a long time. We all need to slow things down – especially on all matters astronomical. To me a Total Solar Eclipse is the most breathtakingly beautiful sight in the entire heavens! I have now seen 11 of them. My wife Valerie has seen 9. Therefore between us we have seen 20. I am also of the persuasion that my Heavenly Father allows me to see each eclipse. To Him be the Glory!

That's it. It's over to you now, lads and lassies.
What were your observational highlights of 2019?
You don't have to give such a huge list as I did.
Just give as much detail as you want for the rest of us.
Please provide dates!

Thank you very much.

Clear skies for 2020!

Aubrey.
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6 months 1 week ago - 6 months 1 week ago #108095 by Until_then-Goodnight!
Replied by Until_then-Goodnight! on topic Favourite Observations of 2019
Very much enjoyed reading your 2019 highlights Aubrey, so thank you for posting them to the forum for us to read. Through your vivid description, the Total Solar Eclipse sounds utterly amazing. In terms of my highlights I have listed six, but I have also included some notable mentions towards the end. Here goes...

Number 6. Face near mare Humorum:

Equipment used included a 150mm f/8 Newtonian reflector; a 24mm Plossl eyepiece with a 52 degree AFOV; 9mm Orion Expanse 66 degree AFOV; and a 6mm Orion Expanse 66 degree AFOV. 

On the night of 8th November I spent approximately an hour observing the area around Mare Humorum. At approximately 22:10 UT I noticed a most distinguishable face around this area of the lunar surface. The Lunarism is near to craters Liebig, Liebig A, Liebig B, Liebig F, Liebig G, Liebig H, Liebig J, Mersinus D, Mersinus E, and the Rupes Lieibig.

Number 5. Observation session near Brittas Bay:

On the night of 19th December 2019 I went out for a drive. I went down the N11 and turned off at the Brittas Bay Exit. As I was turning back for Dublin I noticed how clear the sky was. So, I decided to drive up a quiet road opposite Jack White’s pub. I stopped at 52°53'27.7"N
6°06'54.3"W and stepped out of the car at 22:44 UT. Lyric FM’s ‘Blue of the Night’ was playing in the background as I stood looking at Orion. It was without doubt a most magical moment.

Number 4. Albireo:

During my first observational session with Aubrey and Mike at the Sugar Loaf (02 August 2019), I was shown Albireo. The contrast in colour between the primary and secondary was a sight to behold. Not only did that first contact with the IFAS members lead to new friendships, but it also was the
point when I decided to dabble in astronomical sketching.

Number 3. Orionids Meteor Shower:

23:45 – 00:45 UT. On the 18th of September 2019 my wife and I welcomed a baby boy into the world. During the night of 21st October, I was on the ‘night shift’ with Kyle. I was on the flat of my back on the sofa, and he was lying on my chest. As we looked out through the back-patio doors at the night sky I noted three, possibly four meteors around the Hyades crossing in a SW direction. The first one was particularly good with a long tail. However clouds blew in from the west and by 00:45 UT the sky was covered : (

Number 2. Saturn:

Equipment used included a 150mm f/8 Newtonian reflector; a 24mm Plossl eyepiece with a 52 degree AFOV; 9mm Orion Expanse 66 degree AFOV; and a 6mm Orion Expanse 66 degree AFOV.

Observing from Roundwood Co. Wicklow the sky was pristine during the night of 24 August 2019. I estimated seeing to be 7pk, and transparency 7 that evening. While I have observed Saturn on several previous occasions this was the first time that I saw the Cassini Division through my scope. It was an amazing feeling, and I went home really chuffed!

Number 1. Lunar eclipse 21st January:  Observing the Lunar Eclipse from my front garden was a special event that I’ll always remember for two reasons: Firstly, to see the moon turn from its usual white colour to shades of orange was fascinating. Secondly, I discussed the eclipsed with my father over-the-phone. Although he lives in Kilmainham Wood, County Meath we both shared the moment together. What is more, during the phone call I told him that would was going to be a grandfather to our second child. Wonderful memories!

Other notable, events throughout 2019 include the following: M35 from the Sugar Loaf (20/12/2019); ET Cluster (02/08/2019) fromt eh Sugar Loaf; Messier 45 (13/09/2019) from my back garden;
Conjunction of Moon and Venus (02/01/2019) from Dundrum Town Center Car Park; Conjuction of Moon and Jupiter (13/07/2019) from Ballyvaughan, The Burren, County Clarke, Noctilucent Cloud display (11/07/2019) over Galway Bay; M13 through a 12” Dob (31/08/2019) at the Sugar Load – thanks Sean!
 
Taken together, the above shows how the night sky can bring people together. While the objects are fascinating in their own right, it’s their ability to create shared experiences that does it for me. 

Many thanks for taking the time to read the above, and I hope you all have peaceful and healthy New year.

Clear skies,

Darren.
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6 months 1 week ago #108096 by flt158
Replied by flt158 on topic Favourite Observations of 2019
Brilliant memories, Darren.
We must watch out for that "Face" near Mare Humorum some time.
Albireo is always a thrilling sight for anyone.
One trick I have discovered is how low a magnification can we split it.
My answer is 9X! I did this about 10 years ago on a holiday in Switzerland. I had my Meade 9X63 binoculars with me. It still looks glorious at 11X in my William Optics 70 mm apo.
Well done on seeing up to 4 Orionids in 1 hour!
Saturn is utterly glorious every time any of us observe it.
If you check back on this website in 2018, I observed for the very first time Enceladus through my main scope. It was magnitude 12.0. Definitely my number 1 observation for 2018.
I'm so glad you saw the Total Lunar Eclipse on the 21st January and had your Dad on the phone. Excellent all round, Darren.

We can't wait to see what 2020 will bring us!
Let's get back to the Sugarloaf some time soon!

Clear skies from Aubrey.
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6 months 1 week ago - 6 months 1 week ago #108097 by Until_then-Goodnight!
Replied by Until_then-Goodnight! on topic Favourite Observations of 2019
Very many thanks for your message Aubrey. After posting my highlights last night I realised I left out two notable mentions, so I've included them now.

I never thought of splitting a double-star with the lowest possible magnification: neat idea! 

Also, I must check out your 2018 report of Enceladus, particularly seeing that it was your number one highlight from 2018.

Completely agree with you about getting back to the Sugar Loaf soon. 

Happy New Year, and clear skies, 

Darren. 
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6 months 1 week ago #108098 by Fermidox
Replied by Fermidox on topic Favourite Observations of 2019
Excellent lists Aubrey and Darren, thank you.

Here are my favourites, in no particular order.

• 21st Jan - Total Lunar Eclipse. This was quite satisfying as earlier in the night it was solid cloud and things were looking pessimistic. So the reverse to the way things normally pan out in astronomy! High quality images later revealed a meteorite strike during totality, the first time this has been witnessed. I was actually recording at that moment, but nothing shows on my more basic setup. A very interesting event indeed.

• 9th Sep - Barnard's star. Not quite sure why I had not plucked this piece of low-hanging fruit before, but finally observed this mag 9.5 neighbour on that evening. The fastest moving star in the sky and at its closest it will be less distant than Proxima Centauri is now... we only have to wait till the year 11,800 for that one.

• No naked eye comets this year but I took my overall total of comets observed to 30 and asteroids to 38.

• 16th Mar - The best fireball I've captured on my rudimentary all-sky camera flashed through on St Patrick's eve. I estimated it at mag -7 and a duration of six seconds. Two more fireballs also appeared, including the widely-observed event of Oct 28th.

• 5th Aug - more meteorological than astronomical but a fabulous rainbow appeared on this evening. There was a tremendous lightning flash on Aug 9th, intense hailstorm on Jan 29th, dense fog on Sep 17th, torrential downpour on Aug 20th, heavy late snowfall on Mar 3rd and damaging wind gusts from Hannah on Apr 26.

• 18th Sep - observed the recurrent nova V3890 Sgr which had erupted for the first time since 1990. There are only 10 known recurrent novae in the Milky Way so each of these outbursts is a notable event. Also observed Nova Scuti 2019 and a dwarf nova in Cygnus.

• 16th Nov - I've now observed nearly 30 occultations but each time the stellar pinpoint disappears into or emerges from the lunar blackness is a thrill, particularly with the brighter stars. The highlight of this year was mag 2.9 Mu Geminorum, or Tejat. The accuracy with which the online software predicts the exact moment of immersion/emersion for any given location, is pretty spectacular.

• 11th May - I regularly take an interest in viewing the greatest star Sirius with binoculars as late into the season as possible. This year a succession of clear horizons allowed me to extend the record by 2 days, at which point sunset did not occur for a further 6 minutes. This is quite a challenge as I have some 500m hills straddling my SW horizon, but I'm sure from a more favoured location the record could be extended further.

• 5th Dec - not an observing session as such but a very successful talk hosted by the Limerick Astronomy Club on the subject of Irish meteorites, given by Matthew Parkes. I was amazed when he unveiled the prime specimen of the National Museum's collection, the main Brasky mass from the 1813 Limerick meteorite. Wow!! Of course we were ordered not to lift it but of course we disobeyed that ;) ... what an experience to hoist this priceless relic of history and astronomy. Many thanks Matthew and the LAC team.

And finally, Nov 11th - the Transit of Mercury. One of my biggest regrets was that I did not even have a basic camera to image the 2004 Venus Transit which I observed clearly but had no observational record... so the half hour of clear skies for this event was welcome consolation indeed. A pinpoint of inky blackness against the vast solar surface, but the the sense of history is really enhanced by the rarity value which attaches itself to these inner world transits.

Clear Skies for 2020.

Finbarr.
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6 months 1 week ago #108099 by Until_then-Goodnight!
Replied by Until_then-Goodnight! on topic Favourite Observations of 2019
Hi Finbarr,

Happy New Year to you. I very much enjoyed reading your list of favourite observations from 2019. It seems like you had a very interesting year from an observing point of view. The recurrent nova observation, and handling the meteorite are wonderful events - well done! I also love how you installed the all-sky camera and have captured a number of fireballs. I remember the video you posted of one of the fireballs and thought it was amazing at the time. So, listing here brought me right back to that moment - thank you!

All in all, great highlights.

Clear skies to you,

Darren.
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6 months 1 week ago #108100 by flt158
Replied by flt158 on topic Favourite Observations of 2019
Yet another sensational report from you, Finbarr.
Thank you so much for each of your contributions.
It will be rather difficult to improve on it in 2020.
If I was to ask you for your top observation of 2019, which one would it be?
Not that it matters of course.

Well done on finding Barnard's Star and on catching those fireballs!
That Total Lunar Eclipse and the Mercury Transiting the Sun must be on everyone's favourite list.

Happy New Year to you, Finbarr!

Aubrey.
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6 months 1 week ago #108101 by Fermidox
Replied by Fermidox on topic Favourite Observations of 2019
Thanks Darren and Aubrey.

It has to be the Mercury transit Aubrey. Fifteen years I've waited to capture even a basic image... thwarted by low altitude and cloud for the Venus transit of 2012, and Mercury 2016 was even more frustrating as the haze just wouldn't thin sufficiently. I've read plenty about the heroic attempts from the 17th and 18th centuries to observe these events so to finally capture one has to be right up there. Who knows what circumstances will prevail for the next one in 2032...

But holding the Limerick meteorite has to run it a very close second. As a Limerickman its always been a source of pride that the biggest witnessed fall in the British Isles happened not 20 miles from where I'm typing this right now. And the story of its subsequent history is quite colourful also; the main mass could easily have been lost to history similar to the fate which the second biggest specimen appears to have suffered.

Happy new year Aubrey, Darren and all.

Finbarr.
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6 months 1 week ago - 6 months 1 week ago #108102 by lunartic
Replied by lunartic on topic Favourite Observations of 2019
February saw me commence on the Herschel 400 and to date I have logged 146 objects.  This is about what I expected after the first year and I will hope to log a similar number this year.  This is a long term project, three years at least.  I have not plunged into Virgo or Ursa Major at this point, they are both daunting prospects.  Setting out on this journey is not an observation as such, but still something of a moment in the year.

Paul

Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better programs, and the universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the universe is winning.

Rich Cook
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6 months 1 week ago #108103 by flt158
Replied by flt158 on topic Favourite Observations of 2019
Great to hear from you, Paul!
Thank you for your brief report.
So I find myself asking you: which one of the Herschel 400 is your top favourite?
Not to worry if you can't pick one.
Just keep observing throughout 2020.

Happy New Year to you, Paul.

Kind regards from Aubrey.
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6 months 1 week ago #108105 by lunartic
Replied by lunartic on topic Favourite Observations of 2019
My all time favourite deep-sky object, the Perseus Double Cluster, is on the list, so it was an easy choice.
Paul

Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better programs, and the universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the universe is winning.

Rich Cook
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6 months 1 week ago #108111 by Until_then-Goodnight!
Replied by Until_then-Goodnight! on topic Favourite Observations of 2019
Hi Paul,

Many thanks for your post. I believe the Hershel 400 is quite a challenge, so fair dues for taking it on. I am mightily impressed that you've already managed to observe 146 objects - that's some time at the eyepiece! 

Very best of luck with the rest of the objects. Keep us posted as I'd love to hear more about this project.

Clear skies,

Darren.

BTW, Great choice with the Double Cluster in Perseus!
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